Congress’ War on Women, the Global Edition

When Congress turns this week to another round of negotiations over spending for 2011, much of the country will be focused on the sure-to-be contentious debate over the House proposal to strip federal funding from family planning services, including from Planned Parenthood clinics.   But there’s another anti-woman proposal buried deep in the House’s proposed spending bill that has gone virtually unnoticed, even though it also promises to endanger the health and lives of women, and on a significantly larger scale. Anti-choice lawmakers–apparently not content with only targeting basic medical services for millions of American families–are also taking aim at women in countries around the world.

They have proposed a measure that would prohibit U.S.-funded family planning groups based overseas from using their own money to provide safe, legal abortion, counsel or refer for abortion, or even lobby their own governments for the legalization of abortion. This policy has nothing to do with the federal debt, but it would severely reduce the availability of reproductive health services, including abortion and contraception, muzzle advocacy efforts to change abortion laws in other countries, and likely condemn countless women to unsafe abortion.

The “Global Gag Rule,” as this policy is commonly known, is a perennial fixation of anti-choice groups and administrations. It was the brainchild of President Reagan, and then implemented by subsequent Republican administrations. Because USAID is the leading global funder of family planning, when the gag rule was in effect during the Reagan and Bush administrations, it hit hard. Organizations that opted to forego U.S. funding were forced to scale back their services and others closed down.  Groups that continued to receive funding saw their free speech rights violated, and their advocacy efforts to liberalize abortion laws stifled.  In countries where abortion is legal, medical providers had to choose between meeting their ethical obligations–discussing all reproductive health options with their patients–and continuing to receive essential funding.

The Global Gag Rule’s clear intent is to prevent women around the world from accessing safe, legal abortions.  But we know from past experience that the policy won’t reduce the number of abortions at all – instead, it will likely lead to more women being forced to rely on unsafe abortions. Already, there are a staggering 20,000,000 unsafe abortions that kill more than 45,000 women each year and inflict injuries, disabilities, and infertility on millions more.

Depriving women of information about legal and safe abortion doesn’t lead to a reduction in abortion, but leads to women resorting to crude and unsafe methods. In Kenya, for example, where until recently, the abortion law was extremely restrictive and abortion services essentially unavailable, common methods of abortion are ingesting bleach, inserting sharp objects or resorting to back-alley abortions. Currently, thirty to forty-percent of maternal deaths in Kenya are attributable to unsafe abortion.  Forcing family planning organizations that provide contraceptive services to shut down or cut services is only likely to exacerbate the problem.

The Global Gag Rule is also un-democratic and un-American.  Our foreign policy should promote free speech and democratic change around the world – not silence groups that are doing nothing more than informing women about their legal reproductive options or peacefully petitioning their governments to ease abortion restrictions.  The Global Gag Rule would be unconstitutional if applied to U.S. citizens.  It is both unfair and unwise to limit the ability of foreign groups to inform women about all of their reproductive options – particularly when many abroad are looking to the United States as a beacon of liberty and free speech.

The Global Gag Rule has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility – it won’t have any effect on the deficit – but it will exact a cost in lost lives and shattered health.  

For more information, read our report, Breaking the Silence:  The Global Gag Rule’s Impact on Unsafe Abortion. The report was issued at the time President George W. Bush implemented a version of the Global Gag Rule, but its findings are as true today as they were then.  And add your voice to those protesting the harmful, anti-woman measures in the House-enacted budget bill.  

Don’t let Congress take a huge step backwards on women’s health here and around the world.

——–The Center for Reproductive Rights is a global legal organization dedicated to advancing women’s reproductive health, self-determination and dignity as basic human rights

Take Action: Sign the petition to end the Global Gag Rule forever.

Related Stories:

The Republicans’ War On Women

The Deadly Impact of the Philippines Abortion Ban (Video)

In the Abortion Debate, the Common Ground We Need Is Each Other


Photo from the U.S. Military.
By Aram Schvey, counsel for foreign policy and human rights at the Center for Reproductive Rights


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers17 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers17 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Laura Saxon
.3 years ago

Great article. Thanks for sharing.

Dennis D.
Dennis D4 years ago

Fred H. Get over yourself. the republican/tea party went after the angry white male vote. and being a white male. That was as insulting to me as the republican/tea party making it job no.#1 to make sure that President Obama would be a one term president. Instead of working on jobs and the economy. It played the 1970's version of the white man superior shyt.

The real pitiful part is that my dad would have voted for Mr. Romney on that basis alone in the 1970's.

Those days are gone. it is long past time for the republican party to understand that the angry white man vote is not going to win any more elections.

The only war that the democrats are waging is one that we as society can look in each others eyes and know we are assuring that every one cared for health and in life.. Even angry white men.

Sally Hitchcock
Sally Hitchcock4 years ago

I can not believe it! With a 3rd of the world living in abject poverty it is simply immoral to not offer famliy planning information and procedures to ALL women! So damn sick of fighting with the religious right about a woman's right to contraception.

no W.
no W.5 years ago

No, me and my wife will not stop having sex. We will use natural family planning. which is just as effective as any other form of birth control and it doesn't come with side effects. And your argument is not right. Just because some one has a difficult life after they are born does not mean they should have never been given the chance. Every living person deserves a chance to live, be loved, and experience what life has to offer. While it is terrible what happens to many children around the world and even in America, it does not justify their murder. Which is worse, being given a chance to live or being murdered? There are many cases of children coming out of abusive homes and becoming successful and loved. There have even been some who survived an abortion and grew up to love life. It is not right for anyone to decide that someone else should be murdered, since they think that they will be better off having never lived. Imagine if some one thought you would be better off dead than living, does any one have the right to decide that for you? No.

Carolyn Mah
Carolyn M5 years ago

Yvonne P, you said "I know that I do not wish too, nor should I be forced to (through taxes, etc..)pay for the murder of a living being."

The point of this article was that these organizations aren't going to be allowed to use THEIR OWN money, not yours. Your tax money isn't being used for that to begin with. Don't let that little fact stop you from wanting to dictate how others may spend their own funds.

Carolyn Mah
Carolyn M5 years ago

no W, I have two wonderful sons and one who died through miscarriage mid-term. I've seen the ultrasounds, I've heard the heartbeats. I've held my 22-week-along son in my arms while he died. I know the unimaginable anguish of losing a very wanted child.

I've also seen what happens to unwanted infants. For decades, my aunt fostered battered infants. I remember one little guy - not quite a year old - in a pelvic brace due to his legs being pulled from their sockets from his parents picking him up by the legs and throwing him against a wall repeatedly. I've seen infants who were starved, who were beaten, who were treated like vermin because their parents didn't want them to begin with. Do you REALLY think that's better than not being born at all?

In these impoverished countries, these babies face the very real risk of starvation, mistreatment, and (at a frighteningly young age) sent into prostitution. Anti-choicers, such as yourself, don't seem to care about these kids once they're out of the womb. Do you REALLY think that being a battered, starving child prostitute is better than not being born at all?

Carolyn Mah
Carolyn M5 years ago

no W. since you said "We will start with 1 and see how she does, then hopefully we can get her around 2 more siblings. "

May I assume that you and your significant other are having sex ONLY when you are actively trying to conceive? May I assume that you two will remain abstinent between planned pregnancies? If you opt to have only one child, do you and your significant other intend to remain abstinent for the rest of your lives together? Or will she (or you) get sterilized? (I ask due to your previous post about choosing to have sex)

Fred Hayward
Fred H5 years ago

When I criticized the overblown, Fox-style rhetoric of calling this a "war" on women, Chad M disagreed and said it was indeed a war.

Response #1: I'm sorry. By "war," I thought you meant "war."

Response #2: With your logic, I could make as strong a case that the Democratic Party has declared "war" on white men.

I sure wish Care2 had more intelligent dialogue and less mindless venting.